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Flushing meet focuses on fight against terrorism

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The city has dramatically reallocated its resources to fight terrorism and is counting on local communities for more support, police, fire and hospital officials told a meeting of the Flushing Chamber of Commerce Monday afternoon.

“What the terrorist fears the most is you, the good neighbor,” said Lt. John Rowland, commanding officer of the Police Department’s Counter Terrorism Bureau Regional Training Center.

As a leading member of a bureau created as a result of Sept. 11, Rowland has explained to more than 13,000 police and city officials as well as private citizens what people can do to prevent terrorist acts.

Rowland joined other police, fire and hospital officials at the chamber meeting, which focused on potential targets in Flushing and other parts of the borough.

“The Flushing community is vulnerable,” said Myra Herce, who recently became a co-president of the chamber after serving as executive director. “We know we are. We need information.”

In a 30-minute slide show presentation, Rowland outlined to Herce and the audience of about 50 the methods for combating terrorism.

Rowland said terrorists were of all races and ages and both sexes.

“There is no face to terrorism,” Rowland said. “If you should judge an individual’s appearance and not behavior, you allow that terrorist to operate with impunity in your community.”

Rowland also told the audience that the public often had misconceptions about what constitutes a terrorist target. He compared Madison Square Garden to the Apollo Theater. While the Garden may appear to be the more obvious target, the Apollo with much less security, historical significance and national television exposure every Sunday at 1 a.m. is also a possible site for attack.

Rowland asked the audience to continue to phone in suspicious activity, such as someone moving into an apartment with no furniture. Although oftentimes the activity turns out to have a reasonable explanation, he said the public should call the police at 1-888-NYC-SAFE nevertheless.

Deputy Inspector Owen Monaghan of the 109th Precinct said his officers were making sure not to ignore any questionable activity no matter how small.

“We act on all the suspicious items that we pick up,” he said.

Fire and hospital officials spoke about efforts made in recent years to increase their organizations’ preparedness against possible chemical or biological attacks.

Fire Department Chief Robert Ingram, in charge of the FDNY’s hazardous materials operations, said his department has increased its focus on how to handle chemical disasters for more than two decades.

Ingram said 500 firefighters are now trained to handle hazardous materials.

“We’ve been planning this for a period of time,” he said.

Paul Maguire, administrator of the Department of Emergency Medicine of Flushing Hospital Medical Center, said his organization had teamed up with other regional hospitals to share information on how to respond to bioterrorism.

“That type of information did not exist in a formal structure prior to the events of Sept. 11,” Maguire said. “From the public health perspective, there is no competition, there is only collaborat­ion.”

Frank Mineo, administrative director for emergency medicine at New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens, said hospitals and other health care institutions had begun to investigate ways to respond to a possible bioterrorist attack after the 1993 terrorist bombing at the World Trade Center left five people dead.

But over the last year, Mineo said, the health care establishment has put past ideas on how to prepare against terrorism into effect.

“Sept. 11, I think, brought it home,” he said.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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